The entire world is witnessing Vladimir Putin invade Ukraine – unprovoked, unwarranted, and illegally. He targets civilians and hospitals, adults and children alike, in great acts of cowardice. He risks the lives of young Russian men, marching them openly in an attempt to terrorize the global community into a third world war. Propaganda out of Russia streams like a raging river, pulling at phantom threads of false justification. All the while Putin continues to pull at one thread in particular: religion. He and his co-pilot, Patriarch Kirill, are endeavoring to hijack Orthodox Christianity for their anti-Christian agenda.
Allow me to make it abundantly clear: the Orthodox Christian Church has no Just War Theory. While one might find an individual at some point in history unjustly embroiling Orthodox Christianity in war, it cannot be found as any part of the Tradition. Article V, paragraphs 42-49 of “For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church” explain this in great detail and conclude, “For Orthodox Christians, the way of peace, of dialogue and diplomacy, of forgiveness and reconciliation is always preferable to the use of violence, capital punishment, or police or military force.” In fact, Article VIII, paragraphs 1-5 of the “Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church” arrive at the same realization.
In spite of the clear teaching of his church, Patriarch Kirill unabashedly defends the genocidal and fratricidal efforts perpetuated today by the Russian Federation. On March 6, 2022, he blamed “gay pride” parades and promoted “crusade” justification. On March 9, 2022, he blamed unnamed “third parties.” And on March 10, 2022, he responded to a letter from the World Council of Churches with unfounded excuses about Russian security. Regardless, in every way possible, Patriarch Kirill disregards Article VIII of his church’s social concepts, which states:
The Russian Orthodox Church seeks to carry out her peace service both on national and international scale, trying to help resolve various contradictions and bring nations, ethnic groups, governments, and political forces to harmony. To this end, she makes appeals to the powers that be and other influential sections of society and takes efforts to organize negotiations between hostile parties and to give aid to those who suffer. The Church also opposes the propaganda of war and violence, as well as various manifestations of hatred capable of provoking fratricidal clashes.
I commend the bravery of parishes like St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam, as well as numerous parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, who have written letters petitioning Patriarch Kirill to a change of mind and even ceased commemoration of his name during church services. Nevertheless, having dedicated my entire service to the unity of the Orthodox Church, it pains me to write this blog. Knowing and admiring so many exceptional Russian Orthodox laity, priests, and bishops, it pains me to see their leaders being led astray. But above all that, it pains me to watch as – at the very moment when crowns of martyrdom are within their grasp – the vast majority of hierarchs and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate choose to remain silent or, worse, lend credibility to the false doctrines by which Putin and Kirill march.
Where are the clerics and monastics of the 20th century, who defended the Orthodox Christian faith in peaceful protest to the tyranny of the Soviet Union at the risk of persecution, exile, and death? Where are the Saints and Martyrs whose lives we read about and revere?
This blog is written as a personal opinion editorial. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, its members, or the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.